Saturday, May 30, 2015

Spaghetti Squash Mac & Cheese

I'm really loving spaghetti squash lately, and this recipe from Pinterest seemed like it would be an interesting new way to try it. Basically it's just a cheese sauce poured over baked spaghetti squash and broccoli. Fairly simple. But it is not in any way, shape, or form "macaroni & cheese." I understand it's a low-carb recipe. But - just like I said about the zucchini noodle - let's not pretend it's something it isn't. This is pretty good, not excellent, and in no way resembles pasta or macaroni. I felt like the cheese sauce was a little watery and should have added some more flour or some cornstarch to thicken things up. In general, this was just okay. I wouldn't make it again.

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Spaghetti Squash Mac & Cheese
PopSugar

1 large spaghetti squash
Canola oil spray
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
1 tablespoon ghee
1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional garnish
1 teaspoon grated parmesan, optional garnish

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut spaghetti squash in half, and scoop out and discard seeds. Spray the center of both halves of squash with cooking spray, and place cut side up on a cookie sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 50 minutes.

Remove squash from oven, and let cool. Once it's safe to handle, scrape flesh into a large bowl. Add in steamed broccoli florets to bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt ghee on medium heat and whisk in whole wheat flour. Add milk and whisk quickly. Turn heat down to low, add both cheeses to saucepan, and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Pour cheese sauce over spaghetti squash and broccoli mixture, and toss until all the squash is covered.

Dish into 4 portions, and top off with red pepper flakes and extra cheese if you wish!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chickpea Lunchbox Salad

I'm very excited for this time of year because now I can tell you about the fruits, vegetables, and herbs I'm incorporating into our meals that either I've grown myself in our backyard garden. We also joined a CSA this year so I will tell you about that, too, once it starts! Seriously guys, it's the little things.

So my herbs are already just going crazy. I was looking for a lunchbox meal I could make in bulk for the week that would incorporate some of the herbs. I found this recipe, from a cookbook I have called Salads, which worked really well. The instructions say to keep the herbs separate, til ready to serve, but I ignored that. I mixed everything together earlier in the week (minus sun-dried tomatoes because I don't love those), distributed into my little lunch containers, and brought them each day. It worked so well! This was such a yummy lunch. People actually commented on how good it looked. I would make this again - hopefully once the cherry tomatoes start to grow! I did use basil, chives, and parsley from the garden.

salad

Chickpea Lunchbox Salad
Salads: Fresh & Flavorful Recipes All Year Round by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, 2001

2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 ounces marinated artichoke hearts
4 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained (optional)
20 very ripe cherry tomatoes (about) halved
6 scallions, finely sliced diagonally
Leaves from 4 sprigs of basil, torn
A small bunch chives, snipped with shears
Leaves from 4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh Parmesan (about 2 oz) shaved
1 tablespoon black pepper, cracked with a mortar and pestle

Dressing:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well. Put the chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and drained, sundried tomatoes, if using, in a bowl or lunchbox. Pour over the dressing. Cover with a lid and chill for up to 4 hours.

When ready to serve, add the cherry tomatoes, scallions, basil, chives, and parsley. Stir gently, then sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Slutty No-Carb Pasta

That's the title that came with the recipe. I didn't name it that. I have no idea what makes these "zoodles" slutty. Maybe because they're easy? Because they are really simple to make. Remember I bought that spiralizer last month? I've been spiralling up some zucchinis fairly often. The other day I tried this recipe. It's pretty simple. I took the leftovers for lunch the next day. I added some feta cheese and pine nuts. I don't think I would make it again, but it was pretty good.

zoodles

Slutty No-Carb Pasta
Adapted from The Londoner

3 zucchinis
Anchovies or anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic
1 handful capers
1 handful pitted black olives
Chili flakes
1 can diced tomatoes
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese (and/or feta)

Heat a pan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Crush two cloves of garlic into the oil. Add 3 or 4 anchovies. The anchovies should start to disintegrate in the oil ad the garlic gently brown and soften. Add a sprinkle of chili flakes to the oil. Roughly chop up the olives and capers and add them in too. Give it all a good stir and fry for a minute.

Add your canned tomatoes. Let it all bubble away, stirring now and then for a few minutes. Set aside to cool.

Using a spiralizer or mandolin attachment, cut your zucchini into ribbons. Toss into the sauce and heat through. Serve with fresh Parmesan.

Yield: 2 servings

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Basic Macarons with Easy Buttercream

So last weekend, for Cookie Monday, I made a triple recipe of these bad boys.
macaron

Macarons. I freaking made macarons. From scratch. For the first time ever.

I decided I wanted to make them, and as most people know, when I decide something, I make it happen. So I did a LOT of research to figure out the best methods for making them. Some people say to leave the egg whites out overnight to age. Some people say to leave the almond flour out to dry. Some people tell you not to use food coloring because it'll brown. Measure amounts with measuring cups vs with a food scale? Baking times are different, ingredients are different. So I compared some recipes, narrowed it down to two, and hacked them together.

Mostly I used this recipe from PattyCake Baker and this recipe from Brave Tart. Brave Tart also has some extremely helpful resources about tips for making the macarons. For the filling, I used this trusty Martha Stewart recipe for a very standard buttercream, to which I added teal food coloring. No need for boiled Swiss buttercreams here - by the time I was at the frosting step, I just wanted to be done.

Alright so here we go. Let me show you quickly with pictures.

First I made the batter. You whip egg whites into stiff peaks, then add in the almond flour and food coloring. Put it into a pastry bag (just discovered this method for filling the bags without making am mess like I always do) and squeeze out little circles onto baking sheets. The baking sheets are lined with parchment paper, on which I drew circles so I would make them all uniform. As you can see, I did not do a great job on all of them.
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I baked it for five minutes, rotated the pan, baked for 5 more minutes, and then rested on the sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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They are crisp but delicate - too much squeezing and the whole top will just collapse. Be very careful with them. Also note the little "foot" of the cookie - that's a sign you did something right!
macaron

After everything cooled, I piped on some buttercream frosting. Be very careful pushing the two sides of the cookie together because they crack easily!
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Then I put them in the refrigerator, brought them to work, and ran out by 9:30 AM. I AM A CHAMPION.

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So here is the actual recipe I mushed together from all the aforementioned sources. I tripled it and got about 35 macarons.

Basic Macarons with Easy Buttercream

1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (as finely-ground as you can find it, no need to "dry it" like many recipes suggest)
2 large egg whites (temperature does not seem to make a difference)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/4 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (I used both)

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare your baking sheets. Use something approx 1 1/2" in diameter to trace circles onto parchment paper. I used a shot glass. It seemed appropriate. Make sure they're about an inch apart. Flip the parchment over so you don't get ink on your cookies.

Sift together the almond flour and confectioners' sugar. Not all the almond flour will fit through the sifter. Dump it in anyway.

Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed (4 on a Kitchenaid) until it is foamy, 3-4 minutes. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed on the mixer to 5 and continue to beat until soft peaks form, another 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar. Increase the speed again to high (8) and beat another few minutes until stiff peaks form. Soft peaks are when it's still kinda foamy, stiff peaks are when it fully retains its shape when you lift the whisk. Add in the vanilla and food coloring (I used Wilton Gel Coloring in Teal) and beat another minute.

Dump the almond flour and confectioners' sugar into the mixing bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula. I read on Brave Tart, and then confirmed with my own experience, that 40 turns is perfectly enough. It gets everything incorporated while still keeping the meringue fluffy.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, using the circles as guides. Hold the tip straight up and down when piping - the batter will spread out on its own to fill up the circle.

Turn the oven temperature down to 325.

Take the pan of macarons and hit it very hard against the counter. Tap it maybe a couple more times. Air bubbles will rise to the top. Let the macarons sit for a few minutes to "rest" after that. The batter will settle again, but without any air bubbles.

Put one pan in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes. Cool on pan for 10 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack. They will be fragile but you should be able to lift them off the parchment paper.

Turn the oven back up to 375 while the first batch is cooling. Turn it back down to 325 when you stick the next batch in to bake.

After the macarons have cooled, fill a pastry bag with the buttercream or filling of your choice and pipe onto half the shells. Gently sandwich them with matching shells. Layer them gently on their sides in an air-tight container and stick them into the refrigerator overnight. They get better overnight!